POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, March 7, 2011
March 7th, 2011
04:19 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, March 7, 2011

The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.

WASHINGTON/POLITICAL
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNNMoney: Budget battle: Neither side blinks
On Day 157 of operating without a full budget, and with 13 days to go before the latest short-term fix expires, lawmakers appear no closer to a deal to keep the government running. Lawmakers stuck to entrenched positions Sunday, with Republicans insisting on spending cuts nearly 10 times larger than the $6.5 billion offered by the White House. The apparent stall comes in the wake of a closed-door negotiating session on Thursday, when President Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden, budget director Jacob Lew and Chief of Staff William Daley to hammer out a plan with top lawmakers from both parties.

Politico: GOP frosh study up at budget camp
Republican leaders have been running something of a budget boot camp for the 87 members of their freshman class in hopes of getting them to the point they can pitch the GOP’s 2012 blueprint to their constituents back home. In a normal year, the complexities of a budget plan are tough enough to explain to rank-and-file House members, most of whom are focused on more narrow issues. But this year, Republican leaders promise to address politically charged entitlement programs — such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — when they unveil their budget in the next few weeks. To do it, they’ll need the votes of freshman lawmakers who have at times conflated various budget-related issues, including the fiscal 2011 appropriations bills, the fiscal 2012 budget and the looming vote to increase the debt ceiling.

CNN: Senators signal budget cuts must extend to entitlements
Amid the partisan political posturing of Sunday talk shows, indications emerged of how a congressional budget compromise might take shape even as a stop-gap deal remains elusive. Two influential senators, Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican John McCain of Arizona, both said any lasting solution to mounting federal deficits and debt must include more than the discretionary nonsecurity spending targeted by House Republicans.

Wall Street Journal: Texans Duel Over Millions in School Funding
As Texas schools scrounge for cash to buy supplies and threaten to lay off teachers, $830 million in education funding earmarked for the state is sitting at the federal Department of Education. The money, part of the stimulus package passed last year by Congress to help U.S. schools, is trapped by an increasingly hostile battle between the state's Republican and Democratic politicians over how to use it—to the dismay of school districts facing an almost $10 billion shortfall in state aid. Democrats in the state's congressional delegation included a provision in the federal legislation requiring Texas to use the money to supplement existing spending. In the past, they contend, Republicans have replaced state education dollars with federal money, then used the savings for other purposes.

Bloomberg: Daley Says U.S. Will Consider Using Oil Reserve as Prices Rise
The Obama administration will consider using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve if rising oil prices caused by turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa threaten the U.S. economy, White House Chief of Staff William Daley said. “The issue of the reserve is one we’re considering,” Daley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “It is something that only is done, has been done, in very rare occasions. There’s a bunch of factors that have to be looked at” besides price. Concern that the unrest will spread to major oil-producing countries has created “uncertainty” in markets, Daley said. With the recovery gaining momentum, the administration is looking at steps to mitigate the impact if crude oil, now at its highest price since 2008, keeps surging, he said.

Roll Call: Bachmann Stands by ‘Gangster Government’ Description
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) refused Sunday to retreat from her characterization of the Obama administration as a "gangster government." The House Tea Party Caucus founder said, "I don't take back my statement on gangster government," a phrase she used at a tea party gathering in April. "I think that there have been actions that have been taken by this government that I think are corrupt," she said during her appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

CNN: Protesters rally in NY ahead of hearings on radical Islam
Religious leaders, community members and activists took to the streets Sunday in New York to protest upcoming congressional hearings, convened by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, on "the radicalization of American Muslims." Demonstrators stood underneath umbrellas in a cold, sideways rain as speakers in Times Square addressed the crowd. Many said the hearings unfairly target Islam and warned they could stoke fear and fuel violence against the wider Muslim community. Congress is scheduled to begin the hearings this week under the direction of King, R-New York.

CNN: Trump adviser heads to Iowa Monday
While Donald Trump may be focusing on his television show, a senior adviser – who has been pushing a possible presidential bid for the real estate tycoon – will make a visit to Iowa on Monday. Michael Cohen, executive vice president at the Trump Organization and a special counsel to Trump, will go to Des Moines on Monday to meet with Republican party officials, organizers and potential sources of campaign money. Cohen helped create the website ShouldTrumpRun.com, which is not connected to Trump and was set up independently. His visit comes on a day six other likely Republican candidates will be in the state, home to the nation's first caucuses February 6.

CNN: Sen. Alexander: Donald Trump has 'no chance of winning'
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said Donald Trump has "absolutely no chance of winning" in a presidential contest during an interview with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley on Sunday. Alexander and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson discussed 2012 politics on CNN's "State of the Union," where Alexander weighed in on the contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination. "There's always someone like Donald Trump who has absolutely no chance of winning," he said. "He's famous for being famous."

CNN: Unrequited love from White House to GOP hopefuls?
The White House likes to shower praise on some of the Republican presidential hopefuls looking to take President Barack Obama's job in 2012. In the end, it is love the would-be candidates could probably do without. The words really aren't meant to be so kind, of course. They're subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways to jab the potential rivals and remind voters of likely weaknesses they may face. The latest to get kudos from top administration officials is U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, still a member of the administration though not for long.

CNN: Former national security adviser: Bush was right on Libya
A former national security adviser to George W. Bush, Stephen Hadley, and a former Libyan minister agree that leader Moammar Gadhafi is willing to do anything to stay in power, including killing his own people. But when pressed on the reason that the Bush administration opened relations with Libya knowing that its leader had an oppressive history, Hadley defended the decision, telling CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that it was "difficult."

Wall Street Journal: Big Payday for Some Hill Staffers
Departing members of the House of Representatives awarded millions of dollars in extra pay to aides as they closed down their offices, according to lawmakers' spending records. The 96 lawmakers paid their employees $6.7 million, or 31%, more in the fourth quarter of 2010 than they did, on average, in the first three quarters of the year. That's about twice as much as the 16% increase awarded by lawmakers who returned to the 112th Congress, according to LegiStorm, an organization that tracks congressional salaries. The disparity suggests retiring or defeated members used remaining funds in their official expenses budgets to boost salaries for staffers before they left Washington, cash that might otherwise have been returned to the U.S. Treasury.

CNN: Last U.S. WWI vet's daughter urges Capitol honor
The last American veteran of World War I to die should lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol, his daughter said after lawmakers appeared to block the suggestion. "While Papa was still living, it was suggested that he lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol as a final, formal tribute to all the veterans of World War I. Papa consented to this because he understood that, as the last living World War I veteran, he was expected to represent all of the World War I veterans," Frank Buckles' daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan said in a statement.

St. Paul Star Tribune: Minnesota's buy-American law has rocky first year
What could be more patriotic? If you're a public agency funded by American tax dollars, you use some of that money to support home-grown businesses and help create American jobs. It's a win-win-win, right? In the case of a year-old Minnesota law, the reality isn't so clear-cut, as good intentions have run into thorny details. The law says uniforms or protective equipment bought by public agencies must be made in the United States. Today, officials trying to comply often find themselves wrestling with a premium price for U.S.-made goods and difficulty getting equipment with the right specifications.

Chicago Sun Times: The Watchdogs: City Hall hired 139 ex-cons in two years
One of them smuggled cocaine from Jamaica about a decade ago. Another was a carjacker. A third was convicted in the shooting of two Chicago cops in the 1970s, hitting one of them in the face. They are among 139 people who got hired by the City of Chicago over the past two years despite having been convicted of crimes. That’s according to a list of all of the city’s hires of ex-cons in 2009 and 2010 obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Mayor Daley has said ex-offenders deserve a second chance and has made that his policy at City Hall.

NATIONAL
For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

New York Times: Tight Budgets Mean Squeeze in Classrooms
Millions of public school students across the nation are seeing their class sizes swell because of budget cuts and teacher layoffs, undermining a decades-long push by parents, administrators and policy makers to shrink class sizes. Over the past two years, California, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin have loosened legal restrictions on class size. And Idaho and Texas are debating whether to fit more students in classrooms. Los Angeles has increased the average size of its ninth-grade English and math classes to 34 from 20. Eleventh- and 12th-grade classes in those two subjects have risen, on average, to 43 students.

INTERNATIONAL
For the latest international news: http://edition.cnn.com

CNN: Opposition repels onslaught as Libyan government declares victories
Opposition forces claimed a major victory Sunday in Libya, managing to block an onslaught by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's troops and maintain control of the key city of Misrata, an eyewitness said. Using machine guns, sticks and anything else they could find, crowds protected the courthouse, serving as an operations center by the opposition in Misrata, and successfully repelled Gadhafi militias armed with tanks and heavy artillery, the witness said. "The will and the determination and dedication that people are showing here on the ground, it just makes you speechless," he said. A doctor at Central Misrata Hospital said 42 people were killed - 17 from the opposition and 25 from the pro-Gadhafi forces - and that 85 people were wounded in the fighting, which continued on the city's outskirts. The youngest victim, 3 years old, was killed by direct fire, the doctor said.

CNN: UN appoints special envoy to Libya; conflict threatens 'more carnage'
As deadly clashes in Libya continue with no clear end in sight, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a new special envoy to Libya to discuss the crisis with officials in Tripoli, the United Nations said in a statement Monday. Abdelilah Al-Khatib, a former foreign minister of Jordan, was appointed to "undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region on the immediate humanitarian situation as well as the wider dimensions of the crisis," according to the U.N. statement. "The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the fighting in western Libya, which is claiming large numbers of lives and threatens even more carnage in the days ahead," the statement said. "He notes that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, and calls for an immediate halt to the Government's disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets."

CNN: Richardson calls for no-fly zone over Libya
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson called for a no-fly zone over Libya during an interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." Richardson made recommendations for next steps in handling the crisis in Libya, saying, "Next week is going to be crucial and the most important step is the development of an internationally recognized no-fly zone."

CNN: Gates visits Afghanistan amid tensions over civilian casualties
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Kabul on Monday morning on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan - his 13th as defense secretary. Gates is scheduled to visit troops and meet with senior officers and Afghan leaders. He will be travelling to southern and eastern parts of the embattled country. The visit comes amid renewed tensions between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, over the deaths of nine Afghan boys in a U.S. helicopter operation targeting insurgents. The boys had been cutting wood. Petraeus and U.S. President Barack Obama have apologized publicly for the incident, but Karzai has indicated the apologies were not enough.

Japan Times: U.S. foreign aid hinders more than it helps
The United States will run up a record $1.65 trillion deficit in 2011. Yet Washington keeps subsidizing foreign governments. House Republicans have targeted foreign aid. This year the State Department would lose 16 percent of its budget; humanitarian aid would drop by 41 percent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warns of catastrophe: "Cuts of this magnitude will be devastating to our national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters and will damage our leadership around the world." Moreover, the proposed reductions will be "detrimental to America's security."…Despite Clinton's extravagant claims, there is little evidence that foreign assistance advances U.S. interests. The U.S. provided some $30 billion to Egypt over the last three decades, but the country remains poor and undemocratic. Indeed, aid to the corrupt Mubarak dictatorship helped turn Egypt into popular volcano.

BUSINESS
For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

CNN: Libya crisis sends U.S. gas prices up 33 cents in two weeks
U.S. gasoline prices increased nearly 33 cents in two weeks, the second-biggest two-week jump in the history of the gasoline market, according to a new survey of filling stations. The latest Lundberg Survey of cities in the continental United States was conducted Friday. It showed the national average for a price of self-serve unleaded gasoline at $3.51, an increase of 32.7 cents from the last survey two weeks earlier, survey publisher Trilby Lundberg said.

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